Rozner: Like Cubs, Royals patiently built from bottom up

  • Royals left fielder Alex Gordon leaps to make a catch on a ball hit by the Orioles' J.J. Hardy during Game 4 of the American League championship series. Gordon is a homegrown Royals product, taken by Kansas City with the second overall pick in 2005.

    Royals left fielder Alex Gordon leaps to make a catch on a ball hit by the Orioles' J.J. Hardy during Game 4 of the American League championship series. Gordon is a homegrown Royals product, taken by Kansas City with the second overall pick in 2005. Associated Press

Posted10/19/2014 7:30 AM

Why do I love the Royals?

It's a question I've been getting frequently on "Hit&Run" for the last few years, after I began talking up the Kansas City club back in 2011.


The simple answer is I enjoy teams that build from the bottom up, using homegrown talent, and always root for the underdog when the team can't afford to buy free agents -- or keep their own -- and yet take down the biggest and baddest of the richest.

I also enjoy the MLB draft and was watching for a while as the Royals began drafting well, signing free agents in Latin America and collecting monster prospects.

It started in 2002 when Kansas City used the sixth overall pick on Zack Greinke. In 2004, Billy Butler went 14th. In 2005, Alex Gordon was the No. 2 pick, and in 2006, Luke Hochevar went No. 1.

Also in 2006, Jarrod Dyson was selected in 50th round and in June 2006 the Royals acquired Dan Cortes from the White Sox in a deal for Mike MacDougal.

In September 2006, Salvador Perez was signed as a non-drafted free agent at the age of 16 out of Venezuela, and in December of that year Kelvin Herrera was signed as a non-drafted free agent at 17 out of the Dominican.

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Back to the draft in 2007, Mike Moustakas was taken second overall, Danny Duffy was a third-round pick and the Royals found Greg Holland in the 10th round.

In 2008, Eric Hosmer was taken third overall, Mike Montgomery was a sandwich pick (36th) and Derrick Saito arrived in the 16th round.

In October 2008, Yordano Ventura signed as a non-drafted free agent at 17 out of the Dominican.

In June 2009, Wil Myers was taken in the third round, and in July the Royals sent Saito and Cortes to Seattle for Yuniesky Betancourt.

In December 2010 came the first huge deal. The Royals traded Greinke and Betancourt to Milwaukee for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi.

They were heavily criticized for trading a Cy Young Award winner, but they had already signed Greinke to one expensive extension and knew they wouldn't be able to sign him again, almost certainly losing him as a free agent after 2012.


At the trade deadline in 2012, the Brewers dealt Greinke to the Angels, and after that season he signed with the Dodgers for six years and $147 million.

Back to June 2011, the Royals drafted Terrance Gore in the 20th round and Spencer Patton in the 24th.

In July 2012, the Royals acquired Jeremy Guthrie from Colorado in exchange for Jonathan Sanchez. Guthrie had been awful with the Rockies (3-9, 6.35 ERA, 1.69 WHIP), but pitched well down the stretch with Kansas City, going 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. In November of that year, Guthrie re-signed with the Royals as a free agent.

On Dec. 9, 2012, Kansas City made a second huge trade, and this one was also heavily criticized because it involved Myers, a huge prospect. Article after article explained why the biggest Royals trade in 20 years would never work out for GM Dayton Moore.

They dealt Myers (No. 3 prospect in MLB), Odorizzi (top 30) and Montgomery (Royals' No. 6) to Tampa for James Shields and Wade Davis.

"A Royal Blunder," blared a headline from Grantland. "Five reasons why the Wil Myers trade was a disaster for the Kansas City Royals," shouted a headline from Bleacher Report. "Eight reasons why the Wil Myers-James Shields trade is a bad one for the Royals," roared a headline from Yahoo.

A story on suggested, "The deal reeks of a GM feeling pressure to improve short-term performance to keep his job, which is a terrible situation for any executive both personally and for the way it can inhibit his ability to make rational decisions."

They all had good reasons for their thinking and backed up their arguments with logic, but so did Moore.

"We've proven that we can build a good farm system, but now we have to prove we can win at the major-league level," Moore told USA Today at the time. "The way you develop a winning culture is by winning major-league games. It's time for us to start winning at the major-league level."

And Moore did not appreciate the suggestion that he engineered the deal to preserve his employment.

"To me, that's insulting," Moore said. "I want to take the high road here, but that's insulting my integrity. If something happened, I couldn't get another job in baseball? Is that what people think?"

In November 2013, the Royals signed Jason Vargas as a free agent, and in December, Nori Aoki was acquired from Milwaukee in exchange for Will Smith. Omar Infante signed as a free agent and Danny Valencia was acquired from Baltimore in exchange for David Lough.

In June this year, the Royals drafted Brandon Finnegan 17th overall. In July, they got Jason Frasor from Texas for Patton. And in August, Josh Willingham was acquired from the Twins for 2010 fifth-round pick Jason Adam.

Myers, as advertised, won the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year award for Tampa, but the Royals have now reached the World Series.

It didn't happen quickly and there were plenty of disappointments. I picked Moustakas to win AL Rookie of the Year in 2011. He hit .263 with 5 homers and an OPS of .675, and didn't sniff a single vote.

His sophomore year featured 20 homers and 73 RBI, but the last two years were a struggle and this season he was sent to the minors for eight games in May.

Yeah, it never happens as quickly as you hope, and there's never a guarantee the plan will work.

But since the playoffs began, Moustakas has been a star, playing spectacular defense at third and hitting 4 home runs, including a game-winner in extras of Game 1 of the ALDS, and a 2-run homer in extras of Game 1 of the ALCS.

Obviously, having a great system filled with prospects is a guarantee of nothing, something Theo Epstein knows quite well. Not every player will be a star and some will be traded -- like Myers -- to help fill out the roster, but the Cubs also have money to spend and it's very possible -- with patience -- to build a winner this way.

The Kansas City Royals offer some pretty solid proof of that.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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